Letter: Anxious children

Sir: I write as a grandmother of children aged between 15 months and 15 years. It is disturbing to read that "one child in five suffers mental stress" (report, 4 February).

Whatever the main causes, the situation is not helped by a cut in playtime for five-year-olds, and by the dropping of singing lessons to make more time for arithmetic. Mastery of the three Rs is no alternative to emotional intelligence. Whatever happened to the notion of a liberal education?

As a graduate of old, fully literate and numerate, my chief regret now, as I puff my way across the swimming baths (on a good day) is that I cannot swim, and therefore have been deprived of all water-sports, and that I cannot play a musical instrument and therefore can only appreciate the skill of others.

Every child should be taught to survive in water, to help themselves and others to survive by adequate first-aid teaching, to know about the workings of their minds and bodies in order to remain mentally and physically healthy, to learn to enjoy the arts and the sports and to care about our world and the people, animals and plants in it.

Some of such skills and acquisitions may be difficult to evaluate, to measure, to endlessly record, to report on. They may not improve one's position in any league table. Judging numeracy is so much simpler.

RUTH E AINLEY

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